Photographs posted Thursday on Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State depict the demolition of the third Assyrian Christian monastery destroyed in the past six months by jihadist fighters.
The 5th century Mar Elian Monastery in Syria’s western Homs province was located on the outskirts of Qaryatain city, captured by IS militants two weeks ago from Assad regime control.
An estimated 60 Christians were believed to have been captured inside the Mar Elian Monastery 7 August, when some 100 Assyrian families were kidnapped in the city. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 110 hostages from Qaryatain, not all of them Chrsitian, have been transferred by IS forces to the militants’ de facto Raqqa capital.
Long a pilgrimage site for the region’s Christian communities, the Syriac Orthodox monastery was built in 432 A.D. over the tomb of St. Elian. The monastery had been restored in the 17th century by the Syriac Catholic community and then renovated 10 years ago by Italian Jesuit priest Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio. The cleric was kidnapped in July 2013, as was his successor, Rev. Jacques Mourad, in May 2015. The fate of both priests remains unknown.
During March in neighboring Iraq, IS reduced to rubble sections of the 4th century Mar Behnam Monastery, near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh. The same month, graphic photos showed IS militants near Mosul smashing and defacing crosses, statues and Christian murals at the St. George Chaldean Catholic Monastery, first founded in the 10th century by the Assyrian Church of the East.